What Are Toxic Links and How to Remove Them?

What Are Toxic Links and How to Remove Them?

Toxic links can seriously damage the page they lead to. Moreover, since they’re frequently acquired in an unnatural way, they don’t support the SEO process. What are toxic links and how to remove them? Keep reading to learn more.

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Link building somehow resembles interpersonal relationships. As you try to avoid toxic people in your private life, you should try to avoid toxic links to your website.


Because they can have a negative impact on your website visibility, and the effectiveness of conducted SEO activities.

How important are they SEO-wise?

Having them in your link profile can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the entire process, and decrease your positions in the SERPs.

Taking advantage of such links won’t be unnoticed, especially since Google robots constantly learn how to deal with black hat SEO and link manipulation effectively.

For this reason, it’s worth learning what toxic links are and how to remove them as this will allow you to avoid unpleasant consequences and aftermaths.

Any link that is obtained unnaturally or bought from insecure sources can be toxic. Keep reading to see how to check if your backlinks have a negative impact on your page.

Based on numerous available definitions, toxic links can be defined as URLs that result in a decrease in the position of the linked site or don’t produce growth. Google also defines the term as:

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.  – Source: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/guidelines/link-schemes?hl=en

It’s extremely difficult to find toxic links in larger datasets, as there are many reasons for a website’s lack of growth, and backlinks aren’t the only decisive factor in this case.

However, in some situations, it’s possible to say for sure that you’ve encountered toxic links. If you see that a site has a massive number of backlinks but not too many linking domains, then you’re most likely dealing with a toxic domain.

Another red flag should be a situation when there’s a sudden drop in performance after link building activities. In this situation, it’s recommended to perform a detailed link audit.

Check out our link building audit!

Some websites have toxic links only to certain pages. For example, if you notice that the visibility of a particular page or category decreases, while other elements are in good condition, you can suspect that this page has toxic links.

You can find such a correlation when analyzing statistics. Sometimes a link from a particular page won’t translate into traffic growth for one website, but it’ll perform very well in the case of another website. That’s why it’s worth adjusting the strategy on an ongoing basis and observing all the changes.

As you can see, having backlinks that impact one page negatively doesn’t necessarily prove that you should delete the entire domain and assume it has only toxic links.

One link can be negative for one site, but it may work successfully for the other. 

Expert Comment

Toxic links come from unnatural or irrelevant sources and Google treats all links that want to manipulate PangeRank as toxic. Many sites that had these types of links were verified by the Google link Spam Update in July 2022. It is worth removing them so that Google does not impose a penalty.

Kasia Sliwa Delante
Katarzyna Śliwa
Off-Site SEO Specialist

But what to do if you encounter toxic links?

Don’t worry! It’s possible to get rid of them. Although a website can have negative elements, you can fully use its SEO potential with the right modifications.

This relationship also works the other way around. With inappropriate activities, a quality site can turn into pure spam and lose its value in the search results.

An example of this can be seen in the screenshot below, which shows drops caused by spammy links.

toxic links

The most important thing in recognizing toxic links is to constantly observe the changes occurring in specific domains.

It’s worth keeping track of new search engine algorithm updates, such as the Google Link Spam Update. It was designed to identify toxic links and ignore them without imposing a penalty on the spammed site.

Toxic links include spammy and mass links created by one entity. To find toxic links you should perform the aforementioned link audit.

However, if you want to analyze your website on your own, pay attention to a few red flags such as:

  • Several identical websites with different domains linking to the same site,
  • A massive number of spam comments, containing links that are a red flag for the search engine,
  • Unmoderated forums and blogs that are a source of low-quality links,
  • Malicious domains and software that can refer to a site, informing the search engine about a possible threat,
  • Links from a domain added to the Disavow file by several users,
  • Linking from a domain penalized by Google,
  • Follow and nofollow links of suspicious proportion,
  • Directories that cite multiple domains,
  • Excessive link density on the page with the link,
  • Lack of an SSL certificate, which guarantees the credibility of the linking domain.

All of the situations mentioned above, and many others, can be seen by the search engine as threats, spam, and harmful practices.

Try link building with Delante

Therefore, it’s crucial to appropriately balance the number of backlinks mentioned above in order not to be penalized by Google.

Tools That Come in Handy

The process of finding and analyzing toxic links is extremely difficult and challenging. Due to constant changes in search engines, this analysis isn’t a one-time activity, but cyclical monitoring.

Observing a domain’s visibility and toxic links isn’t an entirely reliable solution. Sometimes following such a path can lead you to the wrong conclusions.

It’s worth supporting your observations with SEO tools that will help you check a site’s links and allow you to evaluate its conditions. The most popular of these are:

  • Google Search Console
  • Ahrefs
  • Majestic

Google Search Console is a free tool that gives you the opportunity to check your backlinks. This is done using the “Backlinks” tab and the “Export backlinks” option. After selecting it, you can download all links in a format of your choice.

how to find toxic links

The paid Ahrefs tool allows you to export all links since you started tracking a particular website using the “Backlinks” tab. The tab is displayed after you select the analyzed site. Semrush is another paid tool that also helps you monitor the status of links.

how to remove toxic links

You can also export links using the Majestic tool. Just click backlinks, enter the domain you need to export, and select the option: Export Data.

Monitoring and analyzing toxic backlinks can be problematic and challenging. Few people can afford to devote huge resources to comprehensive monitoring by SEO specialists and webmasters.

If you see that a page with a backlink to your site is spammy, or you notice weird, suspicious websites linking to your domain, there are two ways of solving the problem.

One of them is to send an appropriate link delete request to the moderator or administrator of the suspicious site.

Google Disavow tool is another way to remove toxic links. With its help, you can remove unwanted links.

Disavow allows you to upload a file with specific domains or links that, once submitted, will be invisible to search engine algorithms. The file should be prepared in a text sheet with the extension “.txt”.

remove toxic links tool

It’s worth concentrating on link analysis and conducting it at least once a year, as toxic links can do more harm than good. If you notice decreases in your website visibility and traffic, it’s time to perform a link building audit.

The fight against toxic links should start with realizing the risks associated with them, regardless of your good intentions.

Monitoring the links and domains you use during the SEO process should minimize the probability of having toxic links leading to your website. Be aware that you’ll have to sacrifice certain things for the sake of achieving great results in the future and improving your positions in the SERPs.

Don’t forget about available tools that can streamline your everyday work in numerous SEO aspects.

If your website visibility or positions decreased in recent months and you’ve never performed a backlink analysis, it’s time to get down to it! If you need any help SEO-wise, contact us! We’ll gladly help you improve your website’s position.

Remember it’s not worth creating spammy links, as they can have a negative impact on your website and SEO!

Jr SEO Specialist - Gabrysia

Jr SEO Specialist

In Delante since January 2022. Graduate in management and advertising organization techniques. Professionally interested in content creation and development in the SEO industry. Privately, she is an animal, nature, and photography enthusiast.

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